When I was a kid, you pretty much stopped trick-or-treating sometime in junior high (what they now call middle school). Trick-or-treating was for little kids. Big kids went to parties. And as much as teenagers might like to have a bag full of Kit Kats and Snickers, the humiliation of being teased was not worth the free sugar high.
My daughter Emily is now 15, and Halloween is still her favorite holiday. Today she brought home four of her friends from high school. Were they going to a party? No. Tonight they’re going trick-or-treating.
When Emily was a toddler, trick-or-treating in her blue and white checkered dress and sparkly ruby slippers, and carrying a stuffed Toto in a basket, our neighbors loved to open the door and greet her.
“Look! It’s Dorothy! Can you click your heels three times and say, There’s no place like home?”
I’m sure they thought they were being clever, but we probably heard that line 20 times each Halloween.
Today Emily is 5’7” and has curves like Marilyn Monroe. This year she’s wearing black leather from head to toe in her authentic Cat Woman costume. Her friends are dressed as Tonks from Harry Potter, a pumpkin, Rorschach from Watchmen, and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I asked them why – if they are clearly no longer children – do they continue to trick-or-treat.
“It’s fun,” I thought they’d say. Instead:
“It’s the only time that we can dress up and act like children and still have it be socially acceptable.”
Emily and her friends go to a rigorous humanities magnet school, so an answer like this one is not so surprising.
Halloween is no longer just about the candy. Particularly in Emily’s case, candy is a bit of a hindrance. She has type 1 diabetes and can’t have a bite without an insulin injection. Most of her friends will pop a few pieces, but they plan to give the bulk of their booty to their younger siblings.
They also talked about selling it. I think they were kidding.
These teenagers love dressing up in costumes and traveling in a group. And it’s nostalgic for the good old days a decade earlier when they wanted to hold Mom or Dad’s hand when they crossed the dark street trick-or-treating, even when there weren’t any cars coming.
I’m embellishing this last sentence. I guess I’m nostalgic for the good old days. At least my 5-year old still holds my hand. And my 10-year old lets me trick-or-treat with her for a couple of blocks. Then she ditches me and joins her pack of middle school friends.
Emily’s teen friends mentioned that they like collecting a variety of free candy. I asked what were some of the more interesting trick-or-treat gifts they’ve received. I expected them all to say “pennies” or “an apple.” Their answers surprised me.
“A Jesus pamphlet.”
“The guy’s phone number”
That last one was from my daughter, which really creeped me out.
I honestly don’t mind handing out candy to these kids (and yes, they are still technically kids for a couple more years). The ones I don’t like are the gaggle of teens who trick-or-treat without much costume creativity. Preschooler boys might have more facial hair than my husband, while the girls have unrealistically red cheeks and lips. At least I know it’s part of their costume. For the local teens, beards and lipstick are just part of their normal daily appearance. Do they really deserve one of my Dollar Tree gumballs for so little effort?
Instead of gratefully taking a piece of candy, they grab handfuls of the stuff. Then they go back for seconds.
“One piece each, please,” I want to tell them. But I’m afraid I’ll piss them off and they’ll come back to my home another day and tag it with their spray paint.
“STINGY HO!” will be plastered on our front door. However, no one will be able to read it since typical gang-speak graffiti is virtually illegible.
Or I’m afraid that as they’re going door to door trick-or-treating, they’re actually casing the joint. For those of you too young to know that term, it means seeing if you’ve got good stuff to steal.
The good news is, we ain’t got good stuff to steal.
The bad news is, we ain’t got good stuff to steal.
The costume-less teens also seem to be clueless on how to respond to the question, “What do you say?”
“Actually, the answer is thank you.”
“Thank you,” they either mumble or shout like it’s a big joke. There’s rarely a polite “thank you.”
I’m scared that by giving these potential hoodlums a little lesson in manners, it’ll just piss them off, and they’ll be back when they see my car’s not in the driveway to teach me a little lesson in pissing them off.
So what’s the real age cut-off for trick-or-treating?
I don’t know if there’s an answer. But my guess is – if you’re old enough to trick-or-treat with your own children, you probably shouldn’t be bringing your own goodie bag.
So tonight, if you see a beautiful Cat Woman exclaiming “Trick-or-treat,” followed by a very polite “Thank you,” don’t be a creep and give her your phone number, or I’ll come back and tag your house.
And believe me, the word “Creep” on your front door will be very legible.